I know enough people with either clinical diagnoses of Celiac or Chron’s disease, or who have reactions to gluten that I designed HealthSavor to be 100% gluten-free, always. We get along just fine without it, and everyone gets to enjoy our meals knowing that no gluten ever enters our facility.
Gluten is simply a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye, and traces of it are found in many products. Its just a protein so whats the problem?
Gluten is unusually rich in 2 amino acids, glutamine and proline. So much so that even after all of the rounds of enzymes and acids, they still don’t break down all the way. So what you are left with are chains of peptides too large to process. In many individuals, these particles simply pass on through, but as we are seeing so prevalently these days, many others are affected. Overexposure can also increase chances of a chain reaction leading to damaged intestinal epithelial cells.
According to Alessio Fassano, director of mucosal biology research center and the center for celiac research at the university of Maryland, the undigested gluten causes the cells lining the wall of our small intestine to secret a protein called Zonulin.
We’re still figuring the physiological benefit and purpose for this protein, but we do know that it starts to break down the tight junction of the wall. What happens then, is that the gluten peptides get into the cells that make up the wall and sometimes pass through. Those that pass through cause various immune response elsewhere in the body. The ones that get into the cell clump up and accumulate. This causes the immune system to see that cell as the enemy and start to attack it. Eventually the immune fighters kill the cells, and we are left with a section of intestines that is dead. (see Mechanisms of Disease graphic below)
Now, is this a problem reserved only for those who are genetically predisposed to gluten intolerance? No. Light exposure to gluten in non-susceptible, healthy individuals is certainly no big deal. But since gluten takes on a thickening and binding quality when used in cooking that the food industry just loves, it’s added to soy sauce, ketchup, spices, sauces, dressings, skin care products, cosmetics, even used in some plastics. We’re simply over-exposed.
Add to this the fact that much of gluten found in our food supply has been either genetically modified or selectively bred to contain anti-pest molecules (<— see the science) that may be bothering more than just the pests.
Due to the explosion of gluten-free diets into the mainstream consciousness, there has recently been a bit of a backlash on people who are convinced that they are gluten-sensitive, but do not have diagnosed celiac disease.
This always happens when something starts to become popular seemingly out of nowhere, and in some cases, it is justified to say that people can over-react, or jump to the conclusion that they need to avoid gluten entirely without doing any diligence to confirm it.
People with diagnosed Celiac disease will be positive for specific antibodies, and an endoscopy (yes, the tube with camera that goes into the mouth and all the way down into the intestine) is necessary to confirm. There is almost always a genetic component to this rather than simply diet related factors.
People with this diagnosis get extremely sick off of trace amounts of gluten and there are reported cases of death as well. Patients often present with intense flu-like symptoms, foggy brain, random aches and pains, often all of the above.
Wheat allergy is similar, except it is the specific gluten composition in wheat that these patients are allergic to. The range of foods is less restrictive as a result, but caution should be taken.
“Unfortunately there are currently no real laboratory bio-markers that can give a definitive diagnosis of gluten sensitivity. Therefore, it is a disease of exclusion (meaning all others should be ruled out) and somewhat subjective. Its possible your conventional doctor may not even be looking for it (yet). So currently, the best way to find out if you are gluten sensitive is to simply take gluten out of your diet for a few weeks. Then you may challenge yourself by eating gluten again (if you are up for it!) and paying attention to the way your body reacts.
Also, because gluten sensitivity is newly recognized as its own medical condition, we have no historical data on it. So we actually have no idea what happens when gluten sensitivity is left untreated. Could gluten sensitivity be the forerunner of full-blown celiac disease or other autoimmune diseases? We just don’t know at this point in time. But given that you can have antibodies, inflammation, and serious health issues due to gluten, even with no intestinal damage whatsoever, means to me, that you should take gluten sensitivity just as seriously as if you have celiac disease. At least until we have more information.”- Heather Jacobsen – What’s the Difference Between Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity?
Then, there’s non-celiac gluten-sensitivity. This is where we enter the gray area, and where some of the criticism is founded. There are many case studies of patients who report feeling “better than ever”, “like a teenager again”, “clear headed and full of energy for the first time in my adult life” after ditching gluten. However, when these same people get the Celiac tests done, it comes back negative. How could this be?
There may be other things in the products that are causing the issue, other than gluten. Products can vary greatly in quality of ingredients and health benefit. Some people may react strongly to one kind of wheat product, and not as much with another. Food chemicals, pesticides, other additives come into play here.
There is one more factor with gluten-free foods that I’d like to bring up. Beware of falling into the train of thought that assumes ALL gluten-free products are healthy. I am a member of multiple gluten-free forums and groups on social media, and I often see posts about a new gluten-free cookie mix, or their favorite restaurant that now has gluten-free pizza, and not too much on healthy meal ideas. I’m planning to start that discussion soon.
Quite often, gluten-free products need to add high amounts of starches (concentrated sugar) and gums to make the flour react properly in baking.
Going gluten free is great, but do it for the right reasons… because you want to be healthy and feel great. Your body does not discriminate the kinds of carbs you eat. Starch is an empty carb, and gluten-free cookies are as healthy as a can of Coke.
Say you don’t eat much or any gluten, but still feel the myriad of symptoms. There are other factors that can damage the same cells and not only lead to their own destruction, but also make them vulnerable to the gluten-zonulin reaction.
There is also a danger of continually prescribing meds to suppress symptoms, without also working towards any real cure. Which brings me to the topic of NSAIDS. It’s a very important piece of the puzzle for many.
Many of you are or have been prescribed an anti inflammatory drug like naproxen or meloxicam, and most if not all of us have taken ibuprofen or aspirin at some time in our life. These meds have their place and their time, but we have become way too dependent on them. If you peel back the label on the over the counter, weaker version of these, you will see “NSAIDs, including MOTRIN (ibuprofen) tablets, can cause serious gastrointestinal (GI) adverse events including inflammation, bleeding, ulceration, and perforation of the stomach, small intestine, or large intestine, which can be fatal.” Seriously, you can see for yourself. There is a whole field of study dedicated to this called NSAID ENTROPATHY, so it’s worth taking a closer look, you know?
For someone who is experiencing inflammation, like a tooth ache, or acute injury, NSAIDs are a logical way to relieve symptoms, but for someone who is experiencing low-level inflammation, such as with arthritis, fibromyalgia, Chron’s, or even sleep apnea, all of which may have started with a permeable gut, you don’t want to prescribe them something that will further damage those cells.
An analysis of studies done for the journal of gastroenterology by Ingvar Bjournson and Ken Takeuchi, showed that nearly all studies concurred that all conventional NSAIDS increased intestinal permeability in less than 24 hours of ingestion. YIKES! So not only do NSAIDS damage the tight junctions like gluten does, but they also impair the repair of the cells, increase apoptosis, and reduce production of ATP. You end up with very unhappy or completely dead intestinal epithelial cells. So not only are particles floating through that cause auto immune reaction, but you’re also not absorbing your nutrients properly. It’s a mess.
Fortunately, this barrier regenerates rather quickly!
We can all remember that a hyper-permeable gut = many physical symptoms, autoimmune complications and inflammation, but to see any impact in our lives, we need to at least learn what these symptoms are, what causes them, and what’s really going on in there. If everyone in America avoided or healed their damaged gut, the resulting reduction in health care costs would be, quite frankly, to the point of causing alarm to the medical industrial complex.
HealthSavor meals are all primed to aid in the maintenance and restoration of mucosal lining, when the other protocols are also followed. Next week, we will go onto foods, herbs, and probiotics that can help bring your front line back and keep it strong.